By Sarah Pridgeon
Upton Industrial Park may be the future site of the hydrometallurgical plant at which extracted rare earth element ore will be processed, said George Byers, Vice President of Government and Community Relations, Rare Element Resources (RER), at November’s regular meeting of the Sundance City Council.
Representatives of RER presented to the Weston County Commissioners at the beginning of November, explaining that the processing plant should create 40 new jobs in the area and will help decrease the United States’ dependency on foreign production of rare earth elements. Byers also detailed recent progress at the site, including investigations into alternative routes for site access and process refinements at the pilot plant testing facility.
Drilling results to date suggest that the Bear Lodge Project may represent the fourth best deposit in the world outside China, said Byers, with a “fighting chance that we can call it the third best. A plan of operations is scheduled to be submitted to the USDA Forest Service in the first quarter of next year, which will “kick off the NEPA process.”
Meetings have been held with potential strategic partners over the last few months and more are expected to visit in the immediate future, said Byers. There is strong interest from, for example, Europe and Asia, as well as domestically.
The pilot process plant has been running successfully at Hazen Research Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, since September. The results from testing at the plant will be used to optimize use of water, chemicals, temperature and time to produce the highest grade concentrate from the full-scale plant.
Ten alternative routes for site access at the mine have been investigated, taking such variables into account as safety for workers and the public, cost and impact on the environment and area. Two of these – both existing roads – will be taken forward for further examination and permitting.
RER welcomed a new Manager of Community Relations, Linda Tokarczyk, at the beginning of November. Tokarczyk was previously the Business Manager of the Devils Tower Natural History Association and has also worked as a contract consultant and helped publish a natural resource newspaper.
“My role is to be a conduit of factual and accurate communication among the company and the community, and representatives around the region, to make sure the communication network stays free-flowing,” said Tokarczyk. “I’m committed to being a representative of the company because, as I’ve discovered in my capacities before, communication is vital to a successful project.”
The formal tribal consultation process began in mid-October with a meeting between the Forest Service and tribal representatives. As this was the beginning of official government to government consultation, the company and its representatives were not involved.
RER has created a new website specifically to encourage communication between the company and community. To register your questions or comments, visit www.bearlodgeproject.com